Michael Ballack: Chelsea exit regret and coping with Jose Mourinho's sacking
Download, watch and listen to the full Transfer Talk podcast episode from Wednesday March 25 on Spreaker, YouTube and skysports.com
By Calum Wilson
Last Updated: 15/04/20 9:24am
Michael Ballack enjoyed a glittering career which included five domestic league titles, two Champions League finals and a World Cup runners-up medal. His one regret? Leaving Chelsea too soon.
One of the main draws to Chelsea in the summer of 2006 was the chance to work with the recently self-acclaimed 'special one', Jose Mourinho.
The Portuguese boss had led the club to back-to-back Premier League titles and, aided by the financial might of Roman Abramovich, was attracting some of Europe's greatest to west London.
In the latest episode of Sky Sports' Transfer Talk podcast series - available to download, watch and listen to from Wednesday March 25 - Ballack reveals how he chose the Blues over Manchester United, plus what caused him to miss out on potential moves to Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Asked who he spoke to before signing at Chelsea, Ballack said: "It was important for me to talk to the coach. You really get caught by his personality and by his ambitions.
"Working with a coach like that was something totally new for me. He was impressive and I felt totally comfortable with the decision."
But, having lost their league crown to United in Ballack's first season in England, Chelsea fell further behind their rivals at the start of the 2007-08 campaign and Mourinho was gone.
"I was experienced enough to understand," Ballack said. "When you are not winning, the coach is more or less the weakest person in the team who can be replaced.
"He (Mourinho) was in his fourth year. If you look at the average time a manager has to work in a club, it was quite a good time.
"The way he worked was so intense that maybe you come to a point where things are not working anymore.
"Even then, the fans know what he achieved at the club to take them back to that level.
"It was more or less everyone's fault - the players' fault. It was not something we regret, though, we had to look forward.
"The relationship is still good with him. You will not find many players who speak badly about him."
Grant 'wasn't weak'; Scolari 'didn't work'
Mourinho's exit set in motion a managerial merry-go-round at Stamford Bridge.
Avram Grant's sole season in charge ended with a trio of runners-up places as United got the better of Chelsea twice more, including - for Ballack - an agonising Champions League final defeat on penalties in Moscow.
Reflecting on Grant's reign, Ballack said: "He never really had a chance. It is really difficult, after Jose Mourinho, to work at Chelsea. It could cause a problem for any manager because he had such a relationship with the players and the fans.
"We played really good football under him (Grant), we had more freedom. He managed the team in a different way. Not so, leading the team but more by giving freedom to the players.
Ballack's permanent Chelsea managers
Jose Mourinho (May 2006 - September 2007)Won: 45; Drew: 19; Lost: 8; Win %: 62.5
Avram Grant (September 2007 - May 2008)Won: 36; Drew: 13; Lost: 5; Win %: 67
Luiz Felipe Scolari (June 2008 - February 2009)Won: 20; Drew: 11; Lost 5; Win %: 56
Carlo Ancelotti (June 2009 - May 2010)Won: 40; Drew: 7; Lost: 9; Win %: 71
"A lot of players thought he would be weak, but he wasn't. He was really smart and intelligent."
Luiz Felipe Scolari was unable to bring success back to the Bridge and in February 2009 - with the club sitting fourth in the league, seven points adrift of leaders United - the Brazilian was sacked.
"The club made a different decision, in terms of Scolari, which didn't work at all," Ballack said. "He never really got a relationship with the players."
Guus Hiddink steadied things but his spell was only temporary, so in came Carlo Ancelotti.
"Carlo was a gentleman and a smart guy, picking up things and seeing how players worked," Ballack said.
"He found a good combination of being the person of respect but also allowing every player to shine."
'Carlo wanted me to stay'
Ancelotti's first season at Chelsea would be Ballack's last.
The club won the Premier League and FA Cup double, but victory over Portsmouth in the final at Wembley came at a cost for the German.
Yet to persuade Chelsea's hierarchy to offer more than a year's extension on his expiring contract, Ballack - then 33 - was injured in the first-half, all-but ending any hopes of a new deal.
"Carlo want me [to stay] but the club made a decision to only give players of that age a one-year contract. I wanted two," Ballack said.
"Today, I can say maybe it was wrong. I should have stayed, even for that one year.
"I could never imagine that I would go back to [Bayer] Leverkusen. Until the last day, I actually thought we would find a way at Chelsea. I was really hoping I could stay until the end."